Q: Is there a certification process for physicians who specialize in international adoption?
A: Adoption medicine is a relatively new field, and currently there is no specific training or certification for those who specialize in it. Many doctors in this kind of practice are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Adoption & Foster Care, a special-interest group committed to sharing information and educating other physicians. These physicians can be identified through the AAP Web site.
Frequently, physicians become involved in this field, as I did, after becoming an adoptive parent. This specialty has developed in the last six years through a list-serv for adoption medicine professionals. This forum allows newer doctors in the field to learn from those who have been seeing internationally adopted children for many years.
What criteria should you look for in an adoption medical specialist?
- Make sure that the doctor is board-certified in the specialty in which he practices (i.e., family medicine, infectious diseases, developmental and behavioral pediatrics). How do you know? Ask!
- Inquire as to how long (and how often) the physician has cared for adopted children. What type of care is provided? Specialty (initial evaluations and one or two follow-up exams) or comprehensive evaluations and ongoing care?
- Ask other parents for recommendations.
- Ask your agency for several recommendations.
- Send your adoption referral to several doctors. The second (or third) doctor may have an insight into something seen in a video, or she may have actually been to the orphanage.
- Ask the doctor if he belongs to the AAP Section. If so, this shows a commitment to adoption medicine.
The number of doctors practicing adoption medicine is relatively small, and it is unlikely that a formal certification process will be set in place soon. If you know a doctor who shows a special interest in adoption medicine or sees many adopted children, encourage her to join the AAP Section if she does not already belong.